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Louisiana secretary of state race tops Saturday ballot

December 7, 2018
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In this Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 photo, Democratic secretary of state candidate Gwen Collins-Greenup waves at motorists during a campaign stop in Baton Rouge, La. Collins-Greenup is running against Republican Kyle Ardoin in Saturday's runoff election. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The two candidates vying to be Louisiana secretary of state are trying to draw interest to a late-in-the-year Saturday election from voters distracted with holiday festivities and Christmas shopping.

The runoff between Republican Kyle Ardoin and Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup to be Louisiana’s top elections official is the only race on the ballot in eight parishes. The other 56 parishes have runoff elections for local seats or tax proposals up for consideration or both.

Polls open at 7 a.m. Saturday and close at 8 p.m.

Ardoin, from Baton Rouge, is interim secretary of state, running the office since his former boss Tom Schedler resigned in a sexual harassment scandal. Collins-Greenup, from Clinton, is a former city court administrator, is a former clerk of court employee, has a law degree and is studying for the bar exam.

November’s primary election drew significant interest with congressional races and a long list of ballot items, but voters have shown little enthusiasm for the runoff so far, with about 4 percent of Louisiana’s nearly 3 million voters casting ballots early.

The secretary of state’s office is predicting turnout will reach 20 percent at most Saturday. A forecast showing widespread rain across the state won’t help.

Ardoin and Collins-Greenup — the top two vote-getters among nine candidates in the primary — have been traveling the state, meeting with voters and seeking to remind Louisiana’s residents they didn’t wrap up elections when most of the country did in November.

“I’m doing my best to speak to as many people as possible this week before Election Day,” Ardoin said in a statement. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure that voters are aware that there’s a runoff on Saturday and the importance of this office.”

In addition to administering elections, the secretary of state oversees the state archives, business registrations, the state seal and some museums, such as the Old State Capitol.

Ardoin has more money for TV and radio advertising than Collins-Greenup, whose fundraising has lagged and has focused more heavily on personal appearances and less on traditional advertising.

“I chose to use a social media and grassroots campaign,” Collins-Greenup said. “I went everywhere. I went to farms. I went to churches. I stood on the corner, doing some sign waving. Wherever I was invited, I went.”

Whoever is elected will take over the remaining year of Schedler’s term and will have to run again in the regular 2019 statewide election to maintain the seat.

Though he initially said he wouldn’t run, Ardoin signed up in the final minutes of the candidate qualifying period. The former lobbyist is running as an incumbent, saying he wouldn’t need “on-the-job training” since he’s been working in the agency for nearly a decade.

Collins-Greenup — who has worked as a notary and in the ministry — reached the runoff in a surprise to her own party, which backed another candidate. She raised less than $3,000 for the primary race. But her fundraising picked up with Democratic Party support in the runoff.

Still, she said: “The party probably could be doing more.”

Ardoin has some of the state’s most prominent Republican elected officials featured in robocalls and radio ads. Collins-Greenup said she’s doing radio advertising as well.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte

For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

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